Students fail to pursue college aid

The Legislative Analyst and others make a strong case that fees at the state’s community colleges, currently the lowest in the nation, should be raised to provide more revenue for the system. But this should happen only if the state plowed back some of the money to hire more college financial aid officers and guidance counselors in high school.

A study released this week by the Berkeley-based Institute for College Access and Success underscored that need. As many as a half-million community college students are failing to apply for federal Pell Grants. They’re losing out on as much as a half-billion dollars in aid.

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LAO: raise community college fees

The Legislative Analyst is proposing that the Legislature raise fees at community colleges by $14 per credit – more than 50 percent from the current $26 per credit (which, in turn was raised last year from $20). It sounds like a whopper, but many  students wouldn’t pay it because of fee waivers for low-income families and new federal income tax credits for the middle class. However, the increase would provide $150 million to the system at a time when enrollments statewide have been falling because many colleges have significantly cut the number of sections they’ve been offering, shutting students out of courses that they need.

Even at $40 – $1,200 for a student taking a fulltime load of 30 credits – fees would remain the lowest in America.

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One spot to shop for free digital texts

It’s about to get a lot easier for instructors at community colleges to start using free digital textbooks in their courses. And once they do, the rest of the nation will  follow – eventually.

This week, the Open Educational Resources Center for California went online. The web site will act as a clearinghouse for community college faculty interested in free digital textbooks but  unsure how to use them. They’ll find links to the 450 or so texts now available,  and soon they’ll see peer reviews of many of the titles. The course materials and textbooks are openly licensed or available in the public domain.

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Protect higher ed for you own sake, boomers

If baby boomers need another persuasive reason  why it’s critically important to invest more now in higher education in California, they should consider this: They’ll need more workers with college degrees,  if they want to make  money selling their homes in the next 20 years.

University of Southern California demography professor Dowell Myers made this pitch to self-interest Tuesday during the second hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education. He and others  have warned about the coming threat to the state’s economy from a shortage of workers with college degrees.  Thirty-five percent of workers 55 to 59 years old have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 26 percent of workers aged 25 to 39.  Workers with a college degree earn on average 90 percent more than workers with a high school degree in California.

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An aha moment on higher ed

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed constitutional amendment to protect higher education budgets and slash prison spending is the fiscal equivalent of a death-row conversion. Better late than never to see the light – but look at the mess he created.

“Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future,” he said in the State of the State address. “What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy.”

University of California President Mark Yudof couldn’t have said it better.

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